Netherlands Education

Netherlands Education

The Netherlands is the OECD country with the largest number of pupils in private schools. Education is compulsory for children and adolescents between five and 16 years. The educational system is characterized by great freedom of choice.

Land area 41,543 km²
Total population 17,280,397
Residents per km² 416
Capital Amsterdam (official); The Hague (seat of government)
Official language Dutch
Income per capita $ 53,900
Currency Euro
ISO 3166 code NL
Internet TLD .nl
License plate NL
Telephone code +31
Time zone UTC UTC + 1, daylight saving time UTC + 2
Geographic coordinates 52 30 N, 5 45 O

Organization of education in the Netherlands

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Research has overall responsibility for education. Local authorities are responsible for running the public schools, while private schools are managed by the board of the organization or foundation that created them.

There is a constitutional right to establish private schools. In addition, Article 23 of the Constitution lays down a great deal of freedom in the organization of teaching, and allows for teaching based on religious beliefs, ideological beliefs or educational preferences. Schools with a religious or ideological view can deny students access if the parents do not share the school’s beliefs. Approved private schools receive funding from the authorities on par with the public schools. In 2009, two-thirds of all the country’s 15-year-olds attended private schools.

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Both primary and secondary education are free. School books and teaching materials are covered by the public, but equipment such as dictionaries and calculators must be covered by the guardians.

Primary school

Children must start school on the first school day of the following month after the fifth year of school. However, most children start school when they are four years old. As many elementary schools have waiting lists, it is important to apply for space early to secure parental preferences. The primary school lasts for eight years.

According to the curriculum, all primary schools must teach Dutch, English, mathematics, environmental and social studies, physical education and creative subjects (for example, drawing, music and design). The schools can choose whether they want to offer their own subjects in French, German and religion.

Primary schools themselves can choose how they want to report on pupils’ progress, but each student receives written feedback at least once a year at the end of the school year. Some schools choose to report progress by using grades while others provide written feedback. Parents are at risk of being fined if children are away from school without the school being notified.

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Secondary education

The school system does not differentiate between secondary school and high school. Higher education includes four-year vocational preparatory training, five-year general vocational training and six-year university preparatory training. The high schools offer several of the fields of study. Higher vocational preparatory education and general vocational schools qualify for college education.

Higher education

In the wake of the Bologna process, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs were introduced in 2002. Students must pay about 1900 euros in tuition fees each year. According to the OECD, 41 percent of the population aged 30-34 had higher education in 2011.

The Netherlands has 43 colleges and 13 universities. The oldest and most prestigious are the universities of Leiden (founded 1575), Groningen (1614), Utrecht (1636) and Amsterdam (1632).

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